“Do you want a tip?” the Emperor of China asked Wishee Washee who gave the exaggerated nod of a pantomime lad to indicate he most certainly did. “When you’re over 50, don’t trust a fart”.
The children in the audience whooped with laughter (“he said FART!!”). The younger adults sniggered because they knew they could fart with impunity, the older ones laughed because they knew it was true. And so began the sniggering, tittering, chortling, guffawing and outright belly laughing that marked the return of the pantomime to City Varieties.
Oh how I’ve missed this annual festival of corny jokes, yelling that the baddie is somewhere behind and that oh yes, ‘it’ either ‘is’ or ‘isn’t’. The Yorkshire home of music hall closed in 2009 for a £9.9million refurbishment and Loiners went without their traditional star-less value-added pantomime with the World Famous Rockfight™ that has become its trademark.
Aladdin was billed as ‘The Rock n’ Roll Panto’, ten actors singing, dancing, multi-tasking and hamming their way through singalong hits from the 60s and 70s and for all the world looking like they were enjoying it every bit as much as the audience, which was very much indeed.
I was alarmed to note that the reasonably priced programme made no mention of the World Famous Rockfight™, where audience participation amounted to throwing foam rocks at the baddies on the stage. Probably the health and safety jobsworths or some box-ticking risk manager had deemed the throwing of foam to be too dangerous, a child could choke, an older person may fart with excitement, then where would we be?
Instead of a rockfight there was a rockfall and oh what a fantastic improvement! In what seemed like a scene from the cult classic The Prisoner, on cue large rocks fell from above, the lightest most spherical rocks ever made by a giant beach ball manufacturer fell on us. And we punched and shoved them towards the stage. It was mayhem and chaos, children chuckled, the cast chuckled and the over 50s avoided farting.
Well done to Peter Sandeman, Producer and General Manager at the City Varieties. It was brilliant. And if you don’t believe me, go see for yourselves, it runs until January 8.